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Roots Radio News

Compass and Red House Join Houses

Compass Records
Garry West and Alison Brown, far left, recently signed the band Old Salt Union to their label Compass Records out front of its 19th Ave. headquarters. Compass this week announced it would acquire venerable folk music label Red House Records.


Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams are among the prominent folk and Americana artists whose record label will soon be moving from St. Paul Minnesota to a new home in Nashville.

Nashville’s Compass Records announced this week that it has agreed to acquire Red House Records, a folk label launched in 1983 by DJ and music advocate Bob Feldman.

“He was a real mentor for us when Alison and I started Compass Records back in ‘94," says Garry West. He and his wife, banjo player Alison Brown, relied on Feldman for advice about how to survive and thrive in the roots music niche. When the digital revolution came along in the 2000s, West says often the advice flow went in reverse, as Feldman tried to negotiate a brave new world.

“So we had a really good relationship like that for a long time. Just chat on the phone or see each other at a conference and talk about the business and commiserate and share ideas. It was great. And we always thought he did a fantastic job with that label, with the Red House brand and what it stood for.”


And it has largely stood for modern folk music. It grew out of Iowa songwriter Greg Brown’s personal label and under Feldman’s guidance signed John Gorka, Eliza Gylkison, Robin & Linda Williams, Lucy Kaplansky and Ramblin Jack Elliot, who earned them a Grammy Award.

Feldman died suddenly in 2006 and his widow Beth Friend has kept Red House active and successful ever since. She said in a statement she was ready to bring this chapter of her life to a close and move on.

Staffing decisions are still being made but the labels will merge business operations even as Red House lives on at a new address.

“Red House will continue to be a brand - its own brand - hopefully reflecting the brand’s history and making some good sense of its future with new signings.”

Consolidation has become the new normal in all aspects of the music business. Two of the most influential record companies in roots music - Rounder Records and Sugar Hill Records - are now part of Concord Music Group, noted as the fifth largest integrated music company in the world recently by Billboard Magazine.

Compass however remains independently owned and particularly influential in the Americana, folk and bluegrass world. Garry West and Allison Brown have signed on many of the leading bluegrass bands working today, including the Infamous Stringdusters, Molly Tuttle and Michael Cleveland. The label recently celebrated four wins at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards in Raleigh.